This week we have been re-imagining fairy tales.
Most of the fairy-tale known widely in America are originally German, because of the Grimm Brothers, who traveled throughout their part of Europe collecting, and then publishing, folk stories.
There are many other culture rich in stories, and often, gentler. The original stories published by the Grimms were definitely ‘grim’.
My mother grew up hearing Italian stories; she had no knowledge of the stories or common (generally English) nursery rhymes and bought books with them for her children to have common cultural knowledge.
When I had to tell a folk-tale for schoolwork, Mom told me an Italian one and my teacher was thrilled to see a new story. You may have encountered the ‘punchline’ sometime in your life:
“Shoemaker, stick to your last”. (The story is of a man who painted a picture and put it out while he hid, to see what people thought. A shoemaker came by and said it was great, but the heels were wrong on the man’s shoes. The artist, grateful, came out and repainted the heels. Later, the shoemaker came back and said, “Ah, that is better, but the man’s collar should be wider.” The artist jumped from his hiding place and said well, said the punchline.)
I can’t think of a way of retelling that,
but others come to mind.
How about another shoemaker, one with elves?
Many, many years ago there was a shoemaker who lived with his wife, Muffy, in a small, northern town. They were no longer young and they had no children of their own, but they were well-known and well-liked because they were always cheerful and giving. In fact, the man made such quality boots and shoes that they lasted a long time, so there was little business, but they got by on a little income and by using little for themselves. Since neither could stand to see children barefoot in the cold, the man made shoes for any child who he felt needed them and his wife gave away small treats that she made to them as well. The couple learned that giving was a gift to themselves.
One night, after a day of giving away shoes and treats, the wife said to him, “ You looked tired.Go to bed”.
He said, “How can I? The mayor himself wants these boots and I promised they’d be ready in the morning.”
“So get up early”, Muffy told him. “If you do a lousy job, he won’t like them anyway.”
“I never do a lousy job”, he told her.
“I know, so go to bed so you can get up early do a good job in the morning.”
“You’re right. So, you coming?”
“I’ll be up in a little while. Go to sleep”
“You’re putting out food again, aren’t you?”
“My mother always did it. Things have always gone good for us, so why should I stop now?”
“You know it’s really not elves that eat it, right? You’re probably bringing foxes up to the house.”
Muffy shrugged her shoulders and he went up to bed.
And as good of a man as he was, he was wrong.
The elves, who had come by every night, heard them because, well, it was late. The tallest one said to the others, ”We have to help them. Let’s make the boots to show our appreciation for all the goodies Muffy has put out for us all these years.”
So they finished the boots.
The next morning the shoemaker called out, “MUFFY! Did you finish the boots? “
His wife came down, rubbing her eyes and said, “You expect me to make boots? I cook, I sew, I bake. I make a little candy. I don’t do boots. It must have been the elves.”
“Don’t start with the elves!”
“Then give me another explanation?”
The shoemaker never said another word, but he thought all day and left a pair of shoes unmade that night. Again, he awoke to a perfect pair of shoes.
“I must be getting up and making the shoes without remembering”,he said.”Yeah , that’s it,I’m sleepwalking.”
Muffy never said a word, but put out extra cakes the next night. Her husband, still not ready to give in, left two pairs of boots and another pair of shoes unfinished, but for the first time he helped Muffy put food out, then they went upstairs. However, neither went to sleep; they watched for when the elves came in and got to work on the footwear.
“See?” his wife said to him.
They went down and surprised the little men at work. The couple and thanked them, but the elves said, “We did this to thank you for all of the kindnesses that you have shown to us and to everyone.”
“You know about that?” he asked them.
“We see everything” the littlest elf answered.
The couple and the elves talked all night. The couple offered for the elves to live with them, but the elves said that it would not work; they should not like to be seen by everyone, but they made a counter-offer: that because of this incredible offer for the elves to live with them, the man and his wife should instead go to live with the elves, where they would never get any older and they could do all the good that they wanted because there was no wants, no needs under the protection and magic of elves. They said that had only accepted Muffy’s gifts as treats and a sign of her faith in them and of her good heart.
Muffy gave her husband an ‘I-told-you-so’ look and he said, “What? I never stopped you!”
So they gathered up their few good things. The elves led them farther away than they expected, but it all worked out well and I bet you can finish the story if I tell you the ,shoemaker’s name…